May 2022 – Drew University announced the 2022 teachers of the year in the College of Liberal Arts, Drew Theological School, and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies over the course of this weekend’s ceremonies honoring each of the three schools’ graduating classes.
The winners, Jeremy Blatter (CLA), Gary V. Simpson (Theological School), and Nancy Vitalone-Raccaro (Caspersen), were nominated by students and selected by their deans and university president based on performance and student evaluations.
Each winner was welcomed to the Commencement stage during their respective ceremonies after having their names announced as a surprise by Drew University President Thomas J. Schwarz.
Winner of the 2022 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching
One nominating student wrote that without Dr. Blatter, “I am not necessarily confident that I would have completed my college education given my own personal hardships and the COVID-19 pandemic.” Another student wrote Dr. Blatter, “Inspired me to learn and to keep moving forward, even when the world felt painfully still. He continued to extend a helping hand whenever I needed it, promptly provided any resources he could, and pivoted his classes towards online formatting in a way that should be the blueprint for us all.” Another student nomination noted that Dr. Blatter, “Goes above and beyond not only for his students but for his community. One of my favorite classes at Drew was his New York Semester Course! He gave me so much insight into my intended field!”
Dr. Blatter was also awarded a Mellon Periclean Faculty Leadership fellowship in support of developing this Community-Based Learning course. In addition to being a “phenomenal professor,” Dr. Blatter is an active scholar. He has recently published several articles, including “Psychologizing Spectatorship Between Laboratory and Theater” and “Screening the Psychological Laboratory: Hugo Münsterberg, Psychotechnics, and the Cinema.”
Winner of the Teacher of the Year in the Theological School
Students describe the Rev. Dr. Simpson’s preaching seminars as among the very best Drew has to offer. He gives master classes that, “Unite all the studying, learning, outside reading, and biblical interpretation into a critically important discipline of effective preaching.” They also testify that, “His character and passion shows each time he shows up for class.” Words like “informative, energetic, and life-giving” are commonplace in his teaching evaluations. One student speaks of the Rev. Dr. Simpson’s class as always, “Making space at the metaphorical table” and always calling preachers to speak to and with people and not only for individuals or only for mountaintop experiences.
The Theological School community also has the opportunity to see the Rev. Dr. Simpson preach what he practices in his sermons in Craig Chapel for the whole Drew community. He is also the Leading Pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn—a position he has held in the community for over 30 years.
Winner of the Thomas H. Kean Scholar/Mentor of the Year Award
One student wrote that Dr. Vitalone-Raccaro, “Is extremely knowledgeable, as well as respectful and caring.” She, “Works hard to make sure [her] students are feeling successful within the course.” Another student commented that Dr. Vitalone-Raccaro, “Has positively impacted my graduate experience here at Drew University. She was always available for guidance and support throughout the planning phases of my Inquiry Project. If it wasn’t for Dr. Vitalone-Raccaro, I wouldn’t be where I am today!” A third student wrote “It is so clear that she is passionate about training the next generation of teachers. She was always very approachable, adaptable, and open when it came to student discussions.”
In addition to being a “phenomenal professor,” Dr. Vitalone-Raccaro has also been instrumental in the operations of the Teacher Education program, serving as a coordinator for the Teacher of Students with Disabilities Endorsement and club advisor to the undergraduate group Connect with Kids, as well as organizing the Drew Writing Project school partnerships.
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